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01 June 2023

Plant-based sector maintains growth and innovation

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The plant-based offer continues to show positive numbers in Spain for the overall offer, although we see different growth rates and also different trends. The negative note comes from the category of meat replicas, which is in the red, while the evolution of the vegetable beverages segment has been conditioned by the shift in consumption towards the MDD, which now accounts for over 52% of market share.

Alimarket Gran Consumo

The plant-based offer continues to show positive numbers in Spain for the overall offer, although we see different growth rates and also different trends, with the category of meat replicas being the negative note of the year, falling into the red for the first time, dropping 3% in market value, and losing 8% in volume, according to NielsenIQ data for the 2022 financial year. According to the data provided by Circana for the mobile year ending 29 January, the vegetable drinks category grew at a rate of 2.7% in volume, while the evolution of vegetable yoghurts and desserts accelerated over the past year by more than 30% in volume, taking over from vegetable meats as the segment that grew the most during the year.

In this context of growth, and in view of a diagnosis of under-representation on the shelves and in market shares compared to their conventional counterparts, the best news is that the plant-based industry continues to drive the configuration of the category. Proof of this is that over the last twelve months we have seen a growth of more than 30% in the number of launches registered.

Plant-based milk replicas hit the shelves

In fact, one of the highlights of the year in the vegetable beverages segment was the "ex aequo" of Liquats, Danone and Frías Nutrición, which in the space of a few months have consecutively entered the new category of vegetable milk replicas, in a move that seeks to attract new consumers, "even the most dairy-based", and which also establishes very interesting nutritional standards.

Other key initiatives between 2022 and 2023 have been the increase in investment volumes by Liquats, which has undertaken numerous projects in terms of cost efficiency and process optimisation; García Carrión or Iparlat; or the return of Capsa to the segment, with the launch last July of 'Vegetánea'. 

Over the last few months, the evolution of the supply of vegetable drinks has been conditioned by the shift in consumption towards the MDD, which, according to data provided by the sector, now accounts for more than 52% of the market share. This has allowed Frías Nutrición to close last year leading the sector's growth, with a progression of between 10% and 12%, and has also helped Liquats to maintain its sales stable, supported by the 50% of its activity that it generates for the MDD.

Danone combines trends with 'Alpro Protein'.

Danone's 'Alpro' brings us into the current trends in the vegetable yoghurt and dessert segment. The French multinational is leading us into this transition with its cross-cutting launch 'Alpro Protein'. The brand thus combined its two main growth drivers in Spain, plant-based and high protein. The arrival of 'Alpro' in the plant-based alternatives category has completely changed the picture on the refrigerated dairy shelves, which are now flexitarian. Danone's own brand and the MDD have become strong, and most of the other brands have had to rethink their strategies. Among the latter is the Andros group, which in 2021 decided to take a period of reflection, and a few months ago carried out its repositioning by relaunching its 'Gourmand&Vegetal' brand.

Along the same lines, the French group Olga is shoring up its business in our country, with a renewed image and its entry for the first time into soya-free vegetable alternatives. And among the new bets in the category, we find Pastoret, which presented a range of alternatives to yoghurt, with which it hopes to take over the premium space.

Heura' dominates the offer of meat alternatives

Moving on to the offer of vegetable alternatives to meat products, 'Heura' continues to lead this segment, continuing to capitalise on its activist discourse to monopolise the bulk of the category's growth. Thus, the company closed 2022 with a growth of 77.4% and a turnover of €31.4m. Its most recent developments include the announcement of what will be its last round of investment before reaching profitability in 2025, according to the company. This new financial injection will come, on the one hand, from a "Series B" round, in which it expects to raise "at least" €30 million. The second will come from its third crowdfunding campaign, in which it has raised just over €3.3 million.

Another of the new projects that is starring in this offer is Flax&Kale, which last February entered Mercadona's shelves with its nuggets made with pea and soy protein, and has also closed an investment round of €21.7m.

For its part, the plant-based specialist Alimentos Sanygran announced in December the entry into its capital of the Ponso family office, owned by the Pont family -Borges International Group-, called to consolidate this stage of launching its multi-technology B2B project and undertake new investments in its industrial development.

The meat industry makes progress in its plant-based deployment 

In parallel to the development of these new projects, the meat industry is progressing in its progressive deployment in plant-based, consolidating a measured but decisive commitment to the category. In this line, in recent months we can highlight the entry into the market of 'Better Balance', Sigma's new plant-based brand; Noel Alimentaria, which expanded and concentrated its range under the new brand 'Verday'; and Palacios Alimentación, which expanded its portfolio.

In fact, everything indicates that the development of novelties in plant-based meat alternatives has not reached its peak in Spain. There are still many other initiatives that are trying to carve out a niche in demand, with protagonists such as Ahorramas, which in November launched the new 'Meatzy' brand; Ametller Origen, which is testing refrigerated products made from Quorn; or the launches of foie substitute products by Nestlé, with 'Voie Gras', and 'Hello Fuah!

The multi-category offer is making headway

These major categories have been complemented by the extension of plant-based products to many others. Here we can highlight Dacsa, which in December went a step further with its 'Hi Vegs!' brand with its alternatives to eggs or its vegetable sausages; Väcka, a specialist in alternatives to cheese, which last February closed a €1.1m investment round; Danone and Nestlé, which attacked the infant target with formula milks and puree and desserts or snacks that are alternatives to dairy products; or the premium vegan ice cream brand Pink Albatross.